2012 Renovation

of the Marquee and Blade Sign

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To commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Spreckles Theatre Building, we are pleased to announce that the Spreckels Theatre will undertake a project to renovate the 75 year old marquee and blade signs that mark the theatre's entrance. It is interesting to note that the Spreckels Theatre has actually had 4 different marquees over the entranceway since opening in 1912. The existing 1937 version of the Spreckels Theatre neon marquee and neon blade ( upright 4 story sign attached vertically to the Spreckels Building, above the marquee) are both designated historic objects. They will be restored to their original color, form, and usage in 2012… but more on that later.

The first marquee was little more than a wrought iron framework suspended over the building's triple wide entrance from 4 iron linked chains. Originally there was not a blade sign attached to the building. It was really a covered portico to protect the audience entering the theatre from the elements. Under the lip of the framework it was surrounded on three sides by isinglass panels hanging down. "Spreckels Theatre" was etched into the glass. Though it was a modest piece, it announced that this was the designated spot to drop off passengers to enter the building. Typical of the period, one can still find portico structures of this design on historical buildings all over the country.

1912 original portico marquee
& illuminated signage addition 1915

Marquee installed in 1923

In 1915 a new sign piece was added to the original framework. It was also forged wrought iron. This time it was signage that had small incandescent bulbs around it so it could be illuminated at night to attract audiences to the performances inside. The new signs announced the "Spreckels Theatre" in a looped circle above the portico, and around the sides and front were "Hippodrome" and Vaudeville". The Hippodrome was a large New York Theatre that featured vaudeville shows, and the company that toured these shows all over the country. These vaudevilles were featured at the Spreckels Theatre between 1915 and 1921.

The next significant change in the theatres programming occurred when the popularity of film exhibition became the main staple of the theatre in 1922. Then a new and more substantial neon marquee was built above the theatre entrance. This new marquee was topped with brightly colored neon starbursts, and flashing, displays designed to attract attention from 20 blocks up and down Broadway. The framework also had large black faces on three sides that advertised film titles spelled out in replaceable white lettering. This marquee was used first during the silent picture era. It remained in place when talkies made the silent pictures obsolete.

In 1937 successful theatre operators Lou Metzger and Gus Metzger purchased a brand new state of the art marquee and the upright blade sign for the Spreckels Theatre to reflect the prosperous status of the theatre. It was a modern aqua blue and white neon display that featured waves of light rolling across the board that advertised these studio made pictures. These spectacular vintage signs have remained on display at the Spreckels Theatre since 1937. They have miraculously kept up their colorful night time antics for nearly 75 years. This is the marquee and blade that are now stated for a facelift and reengineerd electrics after so many years of faithful service.

After an exhaustive nationwide search for the right company to undertake this restoration, The Blake Sign Company of California was selected. Most recently they successfully completed the restoration of 4 historic hotel marquees and blades in Los Angeles. Armed with the experience, know-how, and the technical ability, Blake Signs will undertake the restoration of the Spreckels Theatre signs in 2012 (Click here to view proposed Restoration plans). When the newly renovated signs are lit up again, they will illuminate the way toward the second 100 years of Spreckels Theatre performances for a new generation of theatre goers in San Diego.

Marquee installed 1937

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